Rep. Diane Watson (D)
Elected: June 2001, 4th full term.
Born: Nov. 12, 1933, Los Angeles .
Home: Los Angeles.
Education: U.C.L.A., B.A. 1954, CA State L.A., M.A. 1968, Claremont U., Ph.D. 1987.
Elected office: L.A. Bd. of Education, 1975-78; CA Senate, 1978-98.
Professional Career: Teacher & school psychologist, 1954-75; lecturer, CA State L.A. & CA State Long Beach; U.S. ambassador, Micronesia 1999-2001.
The congresswoman from the 33rd District is Diane Watson, a Democrat first elected in a June 2001 special election. She grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of a police officer and a postal worker. She graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles, and later got her master’s degree from California State University and a doctorate degree in educational administration from Claremont. She worked as an elementary school teacher, a school psychologist, and a lecturer at Cal State Los Angeles. Watson began her political career in 1975 as the first black woman elected to the Los Angeles Board of Education, where she worked on school desegregation issues. Three years later, she ran for the state Senate, again becoming the first black woman in that body. She served as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee for 17 years before term limits forced her to retire in 1998. In 1999, Watson was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Micronesia.
|Diane Watson (D)||186,924||(88%)||($229,692)|
|David Crowley (R)||26,536||(12%)||($5,773)|
|Diane Watson (D)||44,934||(88%)|
|Felicia Ford (D)||3,738||(7%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (89%), 2002 (83%), 2001 (75%)
She returned home to run in the special election to replace Democratic Rep. Julian Dixon, who died in office in December 2000 after 22 years in Congress. Her chief opponents in the primary were state Sen. Kevin Murray and Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden. Watson’s theme was familiarity. Murray argued that, at age 41, 26 years younger than Watson and 30 years younger than Holden, he could build seniority. Watson countered by campaigning with her 91-year-old mother. Watson got help from the women’s fundraising group EMILY’s List and an endorsement from Magic Johnson. Murray was endorsed by Dixon’s widow, Bettye Dixon, and Los Angeles-area Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters, Henry Waxman, and Howard Berman. Holden was endorsed by outgoing Mayor Richard Riordan. Watson won 33% of the vote, to 26% for Murray and 17% for Holden. On her victory night, she angrily attacked the party leaders who opposed her. In the June runoff, she won 75%-20% over a Republican who spent $709,000 of her own money on the campaign.
Watson has a solidly liberal voting record. Even with Democrats in the majority, Watson had modest committee assignments and legislative output, which perhaps were a residual effect of her rocky start with the senior Democrats she denounced on election night. In 2009, she became chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement, which appeared likely to have a limited agenda with Democrats controlling both Congress and the White House.
In 2007, Watson sought to cut off funds to the Cherokee Nation because of its decision to remove Freedmen slave descendants from tribal membership. Tribal leaders insisted on blood descent for membership. “I do not believe that your or my taxpayer dollars should go to any group that practices discrimination,” Watson said in an editorial on the Huffington Post. The Indian housing bill enacted in October 2008 included a provision that she backed to bar funds to the Cherokees pending a settlement of federal litigation on the controversy.
Earlier, Watson drew protests from California dentists with a bill to prohibit the use of mercury amalgams in dental fillings, which she said could be a health hazard. She also demanded that Kellogg’s stop placing a Spider-Man toy in its cereal boxes because it contained a mercury battery. In November 2004, she gained attention when she claimed that she had tipped off federal agents to an alleged terror plot at an Albany, N.Y., mosque; law enforcement authorities said that they had launched a sting operation months earlier. With a constituency that includes people in the media and entertainment industries, Watson in 2005 won House passage of a resolution urging Russia to protect intellectual-property rights.